Hint: It’s not about Bing Crosby or Barry Manilow. Although they can help. Yes, even Manilow. 🙂
Christmas is almost here, ready or not.
Can I get a show of hands? Who else besides me is in the “not” ready category 99.2% of the time? Who am I kidding? It’s 100%.
Christmas happens at the same time every year, so it should be no surprise. Somehow, it “sneaks up” on me every time, and I find myself considering all the Christmas to-dos with wide-eyed frenzy.
Last year at this time, I blogged about having an extra difficult time “feeling it” and getting into the swing of all things Christmas. In retrospect, I suspect getting into the mental state of Christmas at that time was made more difficult by our recent return from a dream vacation to Australia in late October 2015 that included a couple mind-blowing tropical beaches. I was still missing the warm weather, then next thing I knew it was time to start Christmas shopping.
While those uncharacteristically negative sentiments could still be loitering outside the door depending on my mood, I am glad to report that this Christmas season seems to be different. This year, after Thanksgiving, I was mentally ready for some reason. I was even OK with hearing Christmas music, which I normally poo-poo until at least a week into December.
Dwelling on my mental preparedness for the season got me thinking, “What does it mean to have the Christmas spirit?”. What is the appropriate way to usher in the season?
I suspect if I asked a thousand different people, I’d get close to a thousand different answers, depending on the worldview and beliefs of each person I asked.
As a Christian, my meaning centers around Christ and His arrival on earth; the historical biblical account of Christmas. Even though I’ve read the account (or had it read to me) multiple times each year since I was in diapers, the magnificence of it strikes me with fresh awe and wonder when I take the time to consider it as I ought.
In my quest to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), I desire to keep myself in a frame of mind that honors the Savior whose birth I celebrate. Maybe that is a big piece of the “Christmas spirit” in and of itself.
To make it practical, I’ve thought about what are the ways I can do that. Many of us agree that the holidays should allow “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” to have its way, as well as general notions of love, generosity and charity.
Because I care a great deal about specifics, here are some challenges I’ve issued to myself for this season.
- Be willing to give of my money and/or time to help a friend, family member, church member or even a stranger as I see a need
- Be looking proactively for the needs of others that I am capable of meeting (I’m a pro at being too self-absorbed with my own life to notice the world around me.)
- Dwell on the biblical account of the miracle of Christ’s birth
- Realize the depth of Christ’s sacrifice coming down here to earth, and be prepared to sacrifice my own comfort as needed
- Cherish each moment with family and friends
- Take opportunities to tell people I care about what they mean to me (big weakness of mine)
- Look the Salvation Army bell ringers in the eye, smile and say Merry Christmas back to them, instead of looking down and rushing past when I am not throwing money in their kettle
- Be patient, kind and gracious in over-crowded retail spaces and parking lots
- (Ouch. That one hits home. Quick side story: today (two Saturdays before Christmas), I walked into Fred Meyer and it was insano. I instantly got tense and cranky. Then, I remembered “Christmas spirit” and my whole perspective changed. I didn’t mind the crowd, and I prayed for folks as they walked by.)
- Pray for courage and opportunities to share my faith in conversations with people
- Give people the benefit of the doubt in unpleasant situations
- Be actively grateful for all of my blessings
- Pray fervently for the world in its current state, its leaders and the people within it
The list could go on, but that is a pretty good start. My thoughts and personal challenges aren’t new or unique, but that is what I’ve been thinking about this month.
To celebrate Christmas right, I want my thoughts, words and actions to continually bring honor to the One after whom the holiday is named. That is my definition of the Christmas spirit.